Topics Stablecoin
Bybit Learn
Bybit Learn
Intermediate
Aug 18, 2022

What Is GHO & Why Is Aave Creating a Decentralized Stablecoin?

The stablecoin market is currently valued at $153 billion by market capitalization, and features dozens of coins. While they operate differently, all stablecoins aim for the same goal: The promise of stability in the volatile crypto space. 

Because they were meant to be immune from market volatility, stablecoins have become popular as a means of global payments and a facilitator of DeFi lending and borrowing. 

After the spectacular crash of the algorithmically pegged TerraUSD (UST) eroded trust in the stablecoin landscape, Aave, a noncustodial market protocol, announced a new decentralized stablecoin, GHO.

Why is Aave creating the GHO stablecoin? This article examines the new project and what makes it unique.

What Is GHO?

GHO Stablecoin is a decentralized, multi-collateralized stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar. It was proposed by the Aave Companies (the team behind the Aave protocol) in early July 2022 and approved by the Aave DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) via a Snapshot vote

The new stablecoin will be backed by an assortment of user-selected cryptocurrencies and — most importantly — owned and governed by the Aave community, rather than a single entity. This decentralization is where it significantly differs from other stablecoins in circulation.

Aave Companies introduced the new stablecoin to increase stablecoin adoption by infusing more liquidity and stability into the fast-growing DeFi space. The Aave DAO earns all the interest accruing from GHO lending, providing them with additional revenue. 

Unfazed by the recent collapse of Terra and the resulting impact on the stablecoin market, Aave is betting on a game-changer with the GHO stablecoin.

Before we delve further into the GHO rabbit hole, let's take a peek at the protocol behind it.

What Is Aave?

Aave (Finnish for ghost) is an open-source decentralized lending protocol that allows users to lend and borrow cryptocurrencies. Aave runs on multiple blockchains including Ethereum, Fantom, Harmony and Avalanche. With a market valuation of $1.56 billion, its native crypto, AAVE (ranked 45 out of over 1,000 tokens) shot up by 114% from its recent bottom following the announcement of the GHO stablecoin proposal.

Aave and other DeFi lending protocols use smart contracts (bits of code that automate transactions), instead of centralized intermediaries like banks, to facilitate lending and borrowing activities. Essentially, there are no middlemen. When you borrow from Aave, you borrow directly from people who deposit their crypto assets with the protocol. The lenders, in turn, earn interest on their deposited digital assets.

Due to the volatile nature of crypto, borrowers have to overcollaterize — i.e., put up significantly more crypto than they’re borrowing for security. If the value of their collateral drops beyond a preset point, the smart contract will liquidate their collateral in order to cover their loan.

Founded by Stani Kulechov, Aave was originally launched as ETHLend in 2017 and rebranded to Aave a year later. Aave is owned and managed by a collective of token holders, known as the AaveDAO, who direct the path of the protocol through votes.

In the crowded DeFi space, Aave shines by allowing over 20 lendable crypto assets, giving users more options and flexibility. In addition, users can switch between fixed and variable interest rates when they borrow on the platform.

How Does GHO Work?

GHO stablecoin is created or minted when a user (or borrower) puts up collateral in a specified ratio. When the user repays the loan, the GHO protocol burns the returned GHO. The interest generated from the borrowed asset goes to the DAO’s treasury. The crypto assets used as collateral generate yield for the borrower.

Unlike purely algorithmically backed stablecoins — such as UST, which uses a complex stabilization mechanism of burning and mining the LUNA coin to keep its dollar peg — GHO proposes the use of “facilitators” who can generate and burn GHO tokens based on yet-to-be-disclosed mechanisms. The facilitator could be a protocol or an entity, and is approved by the Aave DAO. For control, the Aave governance will approve a “bucket” — the maximum GHO a particular facilitator can generate — for each facilitator.

Features of GHO

Given the proliferation of stablecoins in the crypto space, you may wonder if there’s any point in launching yet another one. The proposed GHO stablecoin is not just another stablecoin. Aave aims to set the pace for decentralized, crypto-backed stablecoins with the introduction of GHO. A few of its defining features include: 

Position-Based Minting

The GHO stablecoin shares similar characteristics with the popular DAI stablecoin (created by MakerDAO). Both tokens are decentralized and use overcollateralization to keep their peg to the U.S. dollar. However, GHO has the distinct advantage of using position-based minting instead of the collateral vault-specific minting used by DAI. Position-based minting supports more seamless and fairer position management than vault-specific minting. It also allows for better gas optimization.

Overcollateralized With Multiple Crypto Assets

The GHO stablecoin will be backed by a diversified range of cryptocurrencies accepted on the Aave platform and chosen by users. To mint GHO, users will have to deposit a higher value of crypto assets than GHO in a specific ratio. This system is referred to as overcollateralization. Overcollateralization ensures that the risk of GHO losing its USD peg is minimized.

Aave-GHO Integration

Included in the GHO proposal are plans to integrate GHO with the Aave ecosystem by launching a specific GHO “aToken” and a GHO Debt Token. This system will use the same mechanism as other assets already on the Aave platform. The Aave-GHO integration will drive GHO’s growth on the Ethereum network.

GHO vs. Other Popular Stablecoins

While Aave Companies has stated that the new stablecoin intends to facilitate the growth of the global decentralized stablecoin market instead of competing, comparisons with more popular and established stablecoins will be inevitable. 

GHO vs. DAI

DAI stablecoin is a decentralized, crypto-backed stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar. One of the most popular stablecoins, DAI is the brainchild of Maker Protocol, a leading DApp on the Ethereum chain. It currently has a market capitalization of $7.3 billion, trailing behind USDC as the fourth largest stablecoin by market cap. DAI 24-hour trading volume at the time of publishing is $373,421,640.

Similar to GHO, users create DAI by depositing collateral crypto assets into Maker Protocol’s vaults. Also, like GHO, each DAI minted is backed by collateral with a far higher value than the DAI debt.

However, the makeup of DAI’s collateral structure consists mostly of USDC. Having a decentralized stablecoin primarily backed by a centralized stablecoin defeats the purpose of decentralization. It also subjects the DAI stablecoin to concentration risk.

DAI uses a collateral vault-specific minting against GHO’s position-based minting. GHO’s position-based minting eases and ensures better position management while optimizing gas spending. 

The recent drama around stablecoins underscores the need for independent verification of claimed backing collateral. GHO’s first audit was carried out by OpenZeppelin on July 11, 2022, right after development. DAI is no slacker when it comes to audits, either. The reputable Callisto Network conducts regular audits on DAI and the MakerDAO ecosystem. 

GHO vs. UST

TerraUSD, or UST, is a decentralized algorithmic stablecoin hosted on the Terra blockchain and pegged to the U.S. dollar. Until its collapse in May 2022, LUNA, Terra blockchain’s native crypto, was on the list of top 10 assets by market capitalization, and UST was a leading stablecoin.

Unlike GHO and other decentralized stablecoins, UST wasn’t backed by crypto assets such as BTC or ETH. Instead, it depended on the seigniorage mechanism to maintain its peg to the U.S. dollar. This stability mechanism works by allowing $1 UST to be redeemed for $1 LUNA. If the UST loses its peg to the dollar, it creates an arbitrage opportunity which — in theory — would incentive the market to regain the peg.

However, this played out differently in the real world, and a series of related events led to the UST depeg and subsequent collapse. UST’s failure has raised concerns over the safety of uncollateralized stablecoins, as well as calls for more regulation of the stablecoin space.

GHO vs. FRAX

The Frax stablecoin (FRAX) is based on a fractional-algorithmic model. It's the only stablecoin that maintains its peg to the U.S. dollar with a partial collateralization structure. The other part of its supply maintains its peg algorithmically. The market pricing of FRAX determines the ratio of collateralized to algorithmic backing. When the price goes above $1, the protocol reduces the collateral ratio, conversely adjusting it upward when the price falls below $1.

The Frax Protocol consists of two tokens: The Frax stablecoin (FRAX) and the governance token, Frax Share (FXS). Like Aave, Frax is fully decentralized and uses a similar governance system.

The Frax stablecoin was designed to minimize overcollateralization risks. Overcollateralized stablecoins like GHO, which are backed wholly by crypto asset collateral, risk loss of stability when a black swan event, such as a flash-crash (sudden dip in the price of an asset triggered by massive sell-offs), takes place.

Frax stablecoin is also cheaper and more capital efficient from a supply perspective. Unlike GHO, which will be expensive to collateralize adequately, FRAX’s unique fractional-algorithm design allows it to cut costs (by partially using algorithmic means) to back the stability of the Frax stablecoin.

FRAX has a current 24-hour supply of $8,938,553 and a market cap of $1.4 billion. It’s constantly audited, with the most recent one being conducted by Trail of Bits in April 2022.

Is GHO A Good Investment?

Stablecoins track the value of other more stable assets, such as fiat or gold. Therefore, it doesn't make any sense to buy GHO for investment purposes since the price remains constant. However, GHO holders can use the stablecoin to hedge against inflation, while still earning interest on their deposited collateral.

The GHO stablecoin will also open up opportunities for investors to stake and earn rewards on the Aave Protocol and other DeFi protocols. Aave token stakers will enjoy a discounted rate on GHO borrowing, which will incentivize investors to help secure the Aave Protocol. This measure is expected to drive value to staked Aave (stkAAVE).

With the first vote to approve GHO and make Aave the first facilitator out of the way, two more votes will be required before GHO goes live. The Aave community will be voting next on setting parameters, such as interest rates, collateral assets and caps, etc.

Aave plans to leverage grants and hackathons to promote mass adoption of the GHO stablecoin. The selling points will include the use of GHO as a reliable borderless and permissionless payment system. The development team also hopes that the rapidly growing Layer 2 ecosystem, with its low transaction fees, will provide fertile ground for more developments, involving the widespread use of GHO.

Final Words

Aave Companies have proposed a new stablecoin, GHO, even though the dust from Terra’s implosion has hardly settled.

The GHO token will be overcollateralized, with multiple crypto assets, which should provide some comfort following the recent events in the stablecoin market.

Instead of competing, the fully decentralized GHO is expected to bring more liquidity and growth to the decentralized stablecoin market, as well as more revenue for the Aave protocol.